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Lanyer is recognized for her good work in English poetry. Her uniqueness in analyzing the female point of view on the function of Jacobean society has created critical attention in recent years. For example, her poem ‘Salve Deus Rex Judaeroum’ has received positive comments and is recognized as one of the significant materials of original poetry printed by an English woman. Lately, her interpretation of feminism in her work has been associated with much of gender roles, sexuality, and good relationship with women (Agnieszka, pp.1). In addition, she has used various male-authored stories based on the bible and translated them into the female perspectives. However, critics argue that her literature work especially the poets are based on the valuable sociological and historical approach of Jacobean England. This paper will discuss how Salve Deus Rex Judaerum by Lanyer portrays Feminism, and the different critics it has faced from readers and other authors.
Major Poetic Works
Lanyer categorizes the poem ‘Salve Deus’ into four major divisions which include ‘Eve’s Apologise in defense of Women,’ ‘The Passion of Christ’, and more so ‘The Salutation and Sorrow of the Virgine Marie’ (Loughlin, 158-169). Each of these categories gives impressive details of the strengthening of the family of women.
Lanyer’s poem praises the quality of the women in society and the author hopes that her work would change the society which has been associated with male dominance. Some of the critics view this poem as a tool that tries to study the main role played by women in promoting Christianity values and that encourage all-female to practice virtue and religious holiness. For example, the poem ‘Deus Rex Judaerum’ focuses mainly on Christ and more so relates different events such as the Last Supper to the moment Jesus was crucified from a female point of view. This poem was the first literature work based on religious devotion that was published by a female author and one that granted women more religious power than men. For example, in her poem, she acknowledges the virtues of women and says that they have the freedom to fight against suppression by men and be treated equally in our society. She believed that this would create a good society where everyone is given equal opportunity in achieving his or her dream regardless of gender. In her poem, Lanyer also discusses the role of contemporary Christian women and also encourages them that they must be strong, pious, virtuous, and focus on their duties towards Christian teachings. For instance, in her poem ‘Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum’, Lanyer dedicated this work to Queen Elizabeth I and also to the Countess of Cumberland. This is depicted when she praised Queen Elizabeth’s virtues and compares her to the Queen of Sheba. This kind of spiritual pattern tries to link the bodily experience of the women to more spiritual power. In this manner, the author tries to depict women’s sanctified authority and show them as a special inherent from Eve. This can also depict another possibility of Christ’s beauty (Kristiane, n.p.).
Lanyer uses metaphors in her poem to show the readers of this poem about the ‘Holy Writ’ that tries to invoke the genealogy of the female prophet-leaders. Her work also indicates that she uses patriarchal governance as a tool to disrespect. She states that it is only ‘God himself’ who can bring men’s pride and arrogance down. As she argues at the beginning of the poem, the female family is associated with God’s will, as well as condemns the abusive practices of patriarchy. Certainly, the examples in this poem that indicates the female power from the Old Testament create a certain view in terms of men’s arrogance as evil. Moreover, there is also part in this same poem where Lanyer reflects on Eve’s apology as a defense for women. This is depicted during Christ’s trial before Pilate and the desire for Eve to gain knowledge. In this story, Adam and Pilate are meant to represent every man, and on the other hand, women are characterized by Pilate’s prophetic wife recognizing Christ’s innocence (Loughlin, 158-179). Pilate’s wife makes efforts to save Christ compared to Christ’s followers. The author here interprets Eve as a woman who desires that knowledge and associated her much with God. The author can also compare and contrast the innocent act depicted by Adam’s wish to feed a carnal appetite. The author continues to show that whereas men uses Eve’s innocence as a justification for female subordination, all women will always blame every man for his hatred against God.
The publication of ‘Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum’ by Lanyer, attracted a lot of attention. The controversy was mainly raised by her feminist interpretation of Christianity and her take on the social values in society. Her piece of work especially the ‘Salve Deus’ poem played a big role in marginalizing women and it is, therefore, considered essential cultural literature that tends to change sociological perspective. There are different authors who have regarded the poem as a significant cultural material that helps women to understand their religious roles. Lonyer’s expression of support towards women is seen as a tool that changes the face of society.
The introduction of the Jacobean court on Lanyer’s literature work has also led to criticism from different authors and this has been another topic of discussion. The application of the Jacobean court to Lanyer’s life is another topic that holds a significant discussion in this poem. The new study has concentrated on homoerotic aspects of Lanyer’s and compared it with the relationship between women throughout the Jacobean period and shown that the connection has transcended the class difference and created a stronger community of women. More so, the work of Lanyer has been acknowledged for her imagery as well as the form mastery of rhyme she expresses in literature. It has also been acknowledged for the critical role the poem has contributed towards defining the rights of women in a society where there tends to be male dominance and traditional practices that create gender bias. In the past decades, Lanyer has been deemed a major author and an important English writer (Loughlin, 134-137).
Impact of Literary Approach towards Feminism
Literature can be used as an important tool for reflecting the cultural assumptions and attitudes toward women, their role in society, their status, and expectations. This would encourage women in society to overcome some of the traditional practices that create gender bias. Literature that shows a male-oriented view would fail to present a convincing picture of the real world. With a feminist literary approach, the work will reflect current cultural assumptions hence including some attitudes towards women.
Finally, feminists claim that positive discrimination is the only channel to correct centuries of bias. Therefore, the disadvantaged minorities only require equality, and this will be a good channel to achieve their dreams.
After the introduction of Feminist Criticism in the 1800s among other important criticism and theories, literature has found a new face. The majority of Feminist critics hold that it is better to consider literary work as something that is contained by the world and not separate literature from its context. For example, the critics do value factors such as social, political, historical, and geographical contexts within which literature exists. In addition, the critics have claimed that the boundaries between the text and the readers are sometimes misplaced and likely to change the content of the text. They argue that the work is read for extra-literary values. Therefore, their works are not centered on gender, nationality, race, social classes but their overall work is shaped by the cultural context and how it affects the subject of the study. However, they tend to forget that the reader and writer are both influenced by the context they write or read.
The overall paper has shown the literary theory and feminist literary criticism and with different approaches that can influence scholars on feminism. Therefore, there is much connection between the literary work and the readings and the manner in which gender roles can be modified. With this knowledge, different authors are able to understand their role in our society and that the messages they deliver to the readers have a great impact.
- Loughlin, Marie H. “‘Fast Ti’d unto Them in a Golden Chaine’: Typology, Apocalypse, and Woman’s Genealogy in Aemilia Lanyer’s Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum.” Renaissance Quarterly 52, no. 1 (spring 2000): 133-79.
- Kristiane Stapleton. “Teaching Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum: Aemilia Lanyer and Early Modern Authorship.” This Rough Magic. University of Wisconsin – Madison, December 2012. Retrieved: http://www.thisroughmagic.org/stapleton%20article.html
- Agnieszka Markiewicz. Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum: A New Gospel for Women by Women. Pace University. 25 August 2005. Retrieved: http://digitalcommons.pace.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1019&context=honorscollege_theses